Lexington Catholic’s quartet of star seniors delivered a statement in the first boys’ event in the 8th Region swimming and diving championships Saturday at UK’s Lancaster Aquatic Center: Thanks for playing.
The Knights kicked off their boys’ title defense by breaking their own meet record in the 200-yard medley relay with an automatic All-American time of 1:32.15. Catholic finished with wins in nine of the 12 boys’ events.
Georgia signee Zach Hils, Alabama signee Matt Menke and Tennessee signee Scott Scanlon won all four events in which they competed. Thomas Strother helped the Knights win two relays (including the meet-starter), was second to Scanlon in the 100 freestyle and finished third in the 100 breaststroke behind Dunbar’s Benjamin McKeowan (who swam a consolation All-American time of 56.47) and Lafayette’s Jack Brester.
Strother could give Lexington Catholic four future Southeastern Conference swim stars — Kentucky is among the schools he’s considering. All four boys were recruited by SEC schools but barely entertained the idea of going to the same school together. Hils and Scanlon went on an official visit together to Tennessee, but that’s the closest one university came to acquiring two Knights.
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The quartet and their other teammates helped LexCath win the combined state team title last year, the first time in 15 years a Lexington school managed that feat. Catholic will have a chance to repeat — and will bring even more focus to the pool when it attempts to in two weeks in Louisville.
“This meet is kind of like a meet that’s just for fun for us, really, because we’re not tapered, we’re not shaved, we don’t have new suits or anything like that” Hils said. “So getting ready for the next meet, we have all those preparations and it’ll be a lot easier mentally for us. It’ll be more fun.”
The Paul Laurence Dunbar girls continued their dominance of the 8th Region, winning their ninth straight region team championship.
The Bulldogs scored 513.5 points, besting second-place Lexington Catholic by more than 200 points. Their second-place showing on the boys’ side helped Dunbar also claim this year’s combined region title, the program’s 11th straight combined region title.
Reagan McKeown, a freshman, won the girls’ 200 individual medley and was part of the Bulldogs’ 200 freestyle relay team. She placed second in the 100 butterfly and was part of the second-place 400-freestyle relay squad. She was maybe most excited by a relay she wasn’t a part of, though: the 200 medley relay that Dunbar took by less than a second against Tates Creek to kick off the finals.
“It’s exciting, so you start off with something exciting and you get motivated for the rest of your races, too,” McKeown said.
Rachel Klinker, the defending state champion in the girls’ 200 and 500 freestyle, breezed in both events on Saturday, winning each with a consolation All-American time.
Klinker signed with California in the fall. She was recruited by closer programs but was excited to capitalize on her talents to expand her horizon a bit further than the south. California head coach Teri McKeever, the head coach of the 2012 Olympic team, has led the Golden Bears’ program for nearly 30 years.
“I looked at a lot of different schools and I have a lot of respect for them but I’m very excited for Cal next year,” Klinker said. “… There are several Olympians on the team right now and I think she can help me get where I want to be, which is the Olympics. The team is awesome, the education is world class. It is far away, but I think now’s the time to go explore a little.
“I love Kentucky, but I want to see the world a little before I get too attached to a certain place.”
Lafayette sophomore Jonah Dunn and Lexington Catholic junior Mackie Redford won the boys’ and girls’ diving titles, respectively, on Friday night.
Dunn won with a score of 465.65, nearly 40 points better than second-place finisher Garrett Craycraft, a junior from Montgomery County who scored 426.55. LexCath junior Reid Noonan finished third with a 408.95.
Redford’s win was much tighter. She scored 464.7, enough to best Henry Clay junior Van McKinley, who put up a 461.15.